Mazda's comeback to the power of 6
Mazda has been lagging behind in the market despite some decent cars, but the Mazda6 might just spark a revival, writes MICHAEL McALEER,Motoring Editor
IN THE CROWDED car market, Mazda is one of the brands that flirt with obscurity. Its reputation for strong resale values, and its loyal customer base, never seem to be enough to give it a firm footing in the market, where it bounces along at between 1 and 3 per cent, depending on the age of its key models.
Every now and again it comes up with a show-stopping car, but that’s usually followed by a raft of also-rans. Suddenly, though, Mazda is making a rightful claim to be noticed.
First up was the smart-looking CX-5, a midsized crossover that would have secured a lot more sales had it been launched at the height of the SUV boom – and when the economic landscape was not so grim.
Now comes the latest Mazda6, arguably one of the most striking-looking cars in its segment. On looks alone this car should sell well, and in a market segment where fleet sales dominate and image is critical, this car may well single-handedly carry Mazda through the recessionary storm.
At a test event where it was nestled alongside recent rivals, engineers from competing brands begrudgingly admitted the Mazda6 has got what it takes to sell. The slightly coupé profile may not be unique – Opel boasts similar lines with the Insignia, and both Hyundai and Kia can claim a similar profile for their i40 and Optima – but there’s no mistaking the front nose for anything else.
With both a saloon and estate versions to test, we had a hard time choosing which was more eye-catching. For practicality we’d opt for the estate, and that seems to be in line with the vast majority of European buyers. In the expected bestselling Sport SE version, the estate costs just €1,000 more, while emissions go up from 108g/km to 116g/km. The trade-off would seem worth it.
Overall, the new Mazda6 is bold, a bit brash and, ultimately, beautiful. In terms of looks, established rivals have met their match.
Where it falls a bit flat is on the inside. The interior trim has been improved, but it still retains the typical Japanese DNA of slightly hard plastics that don’t quite match up to the quality of European rivals. It’s a shame because it’s up against the likes of the VW Passat and even the improved Toyota Avensis in this regard.
That said, the controls are easy to handle and quickly become intuitive. Interior space is as ample as one would expect for a car in this class, and the sloping roofline doesn’t eat into rear headroom or impede entry to any great extent.